Human trafficking takes center stage at movie premiere

5/1/2019, noon | Updated on 5/1/2019, noon
A south suburban man is among the cast of “Ring of Silence,” an independent film available online at Amazon.com, which ...
Cast members for the independent film “Ring of Silence” attended the VIP screening at the ShowPlace Icon Theaters recently. Photo by Wendell Hutson

Human trafficking takes center stage at movie premiere

BY WENDELL HUTSON, Contributing Writer

A south suburban man is among the cast of “Ring of Silence,” an independent film available online at Amazon.com, which shows why sex trafficking is a $32 billion business.

In his first movie role, Jordan Hodges, 21, who lives in University Park and is the son of former Chicago Bulls star Craig Hodges, plays a high school teenager being blackmailed to prostitute himself after being videotaped having sex with an underage girl.

He said playing the role was not only an opportunity for him to launch his acting career, but to also learn more about human trafficking.

“At a time like this human trafficking is an epidemic crisis and more needs to be done to bring attention to an industry that affects so many young people especially young, black men,” said Hodges. “I did not know human trafficking was this big of a deal. I urge people to watch their surroundings because human trafficking is everywhere.”

The elder Hodges attended the April 23 screening of the movie at the ShowPlace Icon Theaters and said he was proud of his son and glad a movie about such an important topic was made.

“This is an important movie everyone needs to see. I am proud of my son not because he is in this movie but because he has chosen to do something he has a passion for and that’s acting,” said Craig Hodges. “But beyond that, people need to know that there are many pitfalls to human trafficking teenagers fall for and more needs to be done to help them.”

Those pitfalls Hodges referred to include the Internet, which is a mechanism often used by predators to find sex trafficking victims, contends Nicole Bowers Wallace, a mother of three and the film’s director.

“The Internet is the flood gate to human trafficking. After doing research on human trafficking, I found out it is a silent killer among young people and does not discriminate either,” she said. “Victims include boys and girls as young as 10-years-old and these children live all over America especially in suburban areas. Many parents don’t understand how this is happening to their children and how so many kids are caught up.”

Sex trafficking survivors said you never forget the eyes of men starring at you while they took advantage of you.

Andi Buerger, 56, said she is a sex trafficking survivor and attended the movie premiere to share her story.

“I was a victim for 17 years and I was pimped by relatives like my mom,” Buerger told the audience after the movie. “At one point, I thought about killing myself by jumping in front of a car because I decided being dead was better than being used as a sex toy. But God saved my life and no cars came passed me that day and that is why I am still here today.”

These days, Buerger operates Beulah’s Place, a nonprofit in Redman, OR, with her husband that provides temporary shelter and social services to at-risk teenagers.

Human trafficking, which includes both sex and labor, is a form of modern slavery that forces people against their will to prostitute their bodies or perform labor for little to no pay. There are more than 37 million victims of human trafficking globally and annually the illegal business generates $150 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

And the Human Trafficking Center in Denver estimates the average age of sex trafficking victims are 12 to 17-years-old and victims come from all types of households and races.

“I don’t know why but children are in big demand when it comes to sex trafficking. Customers tend to be men and they prefer younger victims,” added Buerger. “Yes, sex trafficking is a horrible thing to experience, but like anything else you can get through it if you stay strong.”